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Plant Materials 2009

carthage switchgrassThe Cape May Plant and Materials Center (PMC) serves a nine state area extending from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Wilmington, North Carolina. The Plant Materials Program develops plant technologies and solutions for natural resource conservation concerns pertaining to coastal shorelines, sand dunes, mined lands and critical areas, and coastal grassland habitat. The center is located west of Avalon, New Jersey and is adjacent to New Jersey’s most expansive tidal marsh estuaries.

Biofuels at Cape May PMC

The Cape May Plant Materials Center is growing and producing its own biofuel. This year the PMC installed two high-efficiency pellet stoves to heat the maintenance workshops. They also acquired a Photo of a pellet mill used to form pellets for stovesmall hammer mill to pulverize harvested grass and a pellet mill to form the pulverized materials into dense pellets about ½ inch long.

With several fields dedicated to the production of warm-season grasses, replacing the natural gas heat in the shops made sense. Grasses like switchgrass, indiangrass, big bluestem, and coastal panicgrass have been shown to be significant biomass sources for heat and energy production.

The warm season grasses will be harvested each March and processed for fuel; a comparison of the processing and heating characteristics of the different species will be observed.

Photo of pollinator test plots Photo of pollinator plants beginning to attact pollinators

Cape May PMC Biological Technician waters newly established pollinator test plots in fall 2009.

Pollinator plots at PMC begin to flower and attract insects

PMC Participates in Pollinator Study
Pollinator Restoration Focus of Conservation Innovation Grant

Photo of woman scanning for pollinatorsField plantings were established at the Cape May Plant Materials Center in the fall of 2009 in support of a study underway by Rachael Winfree, Assistant Professor from Rutgers University’s Department of Entomology. Dr. Winfree was awarded an NRCS New Jersey Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to continue her nationally recognized work on pollinators. Researchers will observe and document local pollinators that visit the plots throughout the spring and summer of 2010. The project will include field plots of 20 plant species and season-long observations to determine their attractiveness to pollinators and their suitability for Farm Bill programs.

Most of the world’s plant species rely on insect pollinators, primarily bees, for reproduction and survival. As much as one third of all of our food is dependent upon insect pollination. The 2008 Farm Bill explicitly included pollinator conservation in many of the programs available to farmers to help protect and enhance habitat for these critical creatures.

Products delivered to NRCS over the 3-year grant period will include technical recommendations for pollinator restoration plantings for use in USDA Farm Bill programs, job sheets on pollinator restoration and workshops for NRCS staff and agricultural producers.